Last week, I accompanied the Oregon Beef Council and Oregon State University Extension Service to provide a tour for eastern Oregon ranchers at the CS Beef plant in Kuna, Idaho. There was a great deal of interest and our final tally for the tour was 40 ranchers. The two hours spent at this state-of-the-art plant discussing and viewing operations and ending with a box lunch of roast beef sandwiches provided by the Beef Council was time well-spent for each of those ranchers. The information-packed day with great questions and answers needs to be replicated time and again.
As a new decade begins, the beef industry’s voice must become one if producers are to benefit from the many opportunities presented today while confronting numerous challenges. The approach must come from the entire supply chain rather than just cow-calf producers, feedlots, and packers as well as the supermarket and restaurants. Simply put, no one sector of the industry can survive without the others. Packers need cow-calf operations as do cow-calf operators need packers and they both need feedlots if the U.S. beef industry is to continue as the No. 1 global producer of high-quality, grain-finished beef.
While new trade agreements will provide significant opportunity into the future, the opposition activism toward the beef industry continues to grow. Western states ranchers have long felt the opposition to grazing on Federal lands. Now, getting cattle off the Federal lands has rapidly expanded to eliminating cattle and beef production in the name of addressing climate change. That is a huge leap, to say the least and while the initial response may be to scoff, the climate-change activists are not going to retreat and the debate will not begin and end in a courtroom arguing Federal grazing regulations.
Defending an entire industry is an entirely different challenge and the beef industry must not be divided in meeting that challenge as it has been over the Beef Checkoff! While debate within the beef industry can be positive, divisiveness is not. And, I might add – choose your battles.
The time spent by Eastern Oregon ranchers at CS Beef to tour a new beef plant and learn more about that end of the beef industry is a solid first step toward the industry speaking with one voice – “we instead of those guys”. This is the change that will keep cattle on all rangelands and pastures – private and Federal. It’s about producing quality beef and building demand together as an industry.